Acupuncture (AP) has been used successfully in the treatment of numerous gastrointestinal (G.I.) conditions including vomiting
and diarrhea, constipation and pancreatitis. The effects of acupuncture on gastrointestinal conditions may be described both
from a conventional western medical perspective as well as from a Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) perspective. The western
medical perspective will be the primary focus of this presentation with additional TCM perspectives presented. Communication
pathways mediating the AP response are relatively complex. Numerous studies have documented the efficacy of acupuncture in
the treatment of G.I. conditions. Studies have focused on somatovisceral effects, regulation of blood flow, G.I. motility
and secretions. Specific AP points have been found to have reproducible effects on the G.I. tract. The NIH '97 Consensus on
AP for human gastrointestinal conditions found that acupuncture was effective for peptic ulcers, diarrhea, ulcerative colitis
and irritable bowel disease. Acupuncture has been found to regulate gastric secretions, gastric motility, hormone and neuropeptide
release and metabolism .
One of the most significant theories of Chinese medicine corresponds to the western medical concept of somatovisceral reflexes
where the location of acupuncture points, related neurovascular nodes, underlying skin zones and muscles distributions are
related to specific internal organs . These relationships may be utilized both diagnostically and therapeutically. Viscerosomatic
relationships are recognized as sensitivity and reactivity in acupuncture points, spinal segments and related dorsal thoracic
and lumbar musculature corresponding to organ-referred pain in specific organs. Somatovisceral reflex response to stimulating
cutaneous and muscle sensory afferents has been measured in several different internal organs affecting both sympathetic and
parasympathetic activity . Somatovisceral neurons are reported to be located in laminae I and V of the dorsal horn and in
the ventral horn of the spinal cord . Convergence of somatic and visceral afferent neurons provides the main anatomical basis
for AP point (nodal) stimulation to influence internal organs . Animal studies have documented that AP is effective in normalizing
both hypomotility and hypermotility. Comprehensive reviews of the neurophysiologic basis of AP for G.I. conditions are available
Studies on G.I. motility have focused on two key AP points, PC-6 (Neiguan and ST-6 (Zusanli). Research on PC-6 includes 33
controlled trials published worldwide as of 1996 for use of PC-6 for nausea & vomiting with 27/29 trials showing statistically
significant positive results. Stimulation of Pericardium 6 (PC6) produced significant reduction of perioperative emetic sequelae.
Electroacupuncture reduced morphine-induced emesis in ferrets with 5 minutes of stimulation of PC6 @ 1.0 Hz. & 5.0 Hz (n=5/group).
From a TCM perspective, PC-6 (Nei-Guan),is considered the gate to the heart and lungs, calms the heart and regulates Qi. It
can be used to treat vomiting, gastritis, megaesophagus, behavioral problems, anxiety and epilepsy. ST-36 (Zusanli) has been
found to have analgesic and spasmolytic effects on the GI tract, regulates gastric acidity and has a homeostatic effect in
endocrine and metabolic disorders. Clinically it has been used to treat gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, impactions, and ileus.
It has been found to increase plasma gastrin in rabbits and dogs. It is mediated by b-endorphins and somatostatin . From a
TCM perspective it is considered a master point and tonification point for any deficiency.
It has been used for Feline Obstipation Syndrome to increase G.I. motility and secretions. From a TCM perspective this is
considered an interior cold condition in the intestines due to a Qi deficiency or a Blood or Yin deficiency.
Acupuncture is beneficial for the treatment G.I. hypermotility and diarrhea whether it is due to a viral/bacterial gastroenteritis
such as parvovirus or due to inflammatory bowel disease, lymphocytic, plasmacytic colitis in cats or pancreatitis. Key AP
points to consider in the treatment of diarrhea in all of these conditions include: LI-4, LI-11, ST-36,SP-6, BL-20, BL-21.
Additional points may be chosen based a TCM perspective. From a TCM perspective, diarrhea may be considered due to damp heat
invading the Spleen, retention of food, Cold-damp invading the Spleen,or Spleen Qi deficiency or a Kidney/Spleen deficiency.